April 21, 2016

Seeking community policing, some areas turn to private companies

Photo Credit: eviloars cc

Drivers in certain neighborhoods in Albuquerque may see cars that resemble police cars—but they lack lights on the roof or the distinctive Albuquerque Police Department decals.Police officer on radio

Instead, these are private security firms and they have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Aaron Jones is the founder and CEO of one of the companies in Albuquerque. Jones told NM Political Report many citizens throughout Albuquerque have turned to International Protective Service (IPS) because of the public perception of APD, among other reasons.

Jones said besides providing event or business security, his company offers a service mostly associated with police.

“We respond to calls just like the police do, 24 hours a day,” Jones said.

For IPS, these calls can range from an activated alarm to suspicious activity—for paying clients, at least. Since IPS is a private company, they are still limited to what they can do. Still, Jones said the company often fills a void that police either can’t or are afraid to.

Police afraid to arrive

Jones, himself a former Valencia County Sheriff’s Office homicide detective, said he often speaks with APD officers who say they are worried to arrive first on the scene.

“Some of the concerns are this consent decree that’s going on,” Jones said of the current Department of Justice order to APD. “When you have the DA’s office prosecuting cops and you have the federal government overseeing the police department, they’re afraid of being prosecuted.”

NM Political Report did not receive a response from APD before press time on this story.

IPS Deputy Chief of Operations Jordan Moenaert took NM Political Report along for part of his shift earlier this week in Northeast Albuquerque

One notable difference between how IPS and APD respond to a call is how they get there. When Moenaert gets a call, there there are no flashing lights or sirens as with a police officer.

“We still have to maintain the laws of society,” Moenaert said. “Just because we’re in a marked security vehicle doesn’t exclude us from speeding or running traffic lights.”

He received a call for a tripped alarm around 7 p.m. The triggered alarm system indicated that a door or window was broken, but no entry.

Moenaert met an IPS K-9 unit officer at an office building; there there was no audible alarm and no immediate sign of a break-in. Still, the K-9 officer held his dog, NB, close on a leash and Moenaert followed, with his gun drawn.

Together, the two officers walked the perimeter, poking their heads around each corner before proceeding farther. After fewer than five minutes, they found no sign of a break in.

“The building’s secured, no one’s inside it,” Moenaert said. “That’s our primary function, is to make sure that’s the case.”

Community policing

Former police officer and APD critic, Dan Klein told NM Political Report companies like IPS are a result of affluent neighborhoods who can afford extra security and a police force in need of restructuring.

“These security companies remind me of communities who are too rich and too lazy to have a community watch,” Klein said.

Klein is a vocal advocate of community policing.

Community policing is not new, and is seen by many, including political leaders, as a way to reduce regarding property crime. Klein maintains that APD could provide more officers for home break-ins and vandalism without additional hiring. He said APD has too many specialized task forces that are not kept busy.

Often times, Moenaert said, clients hire IPS after a string of neighborhood burglaries.

The Department of Justice report that outlined unconstitutional policing by APD mentioned problems with community policing in the city as one of the deficiencies the department should fix.

“You would have enough officers if they would get back to the basic core of police work,” Klein said.

Klein also said companies like IPS highlight the income disparity in Albuquerque.

“If you’ve got the money you’re going to waste it on a security guard who can’t do anything,” Klein said.

Moenaert told NM Political Report that they have diverse clients, but many of the higher activity areas are more affluent than others.

“If I were to show you a map of all of our clients it really is complete diversified,” Moenaert said. “We do find that some of the nicer communities throughout Albuquerque seem to be higher targets.”

When asked, Moenaert said the company does not have a map to pinpoint the areas where IPS patrols.

Klein said he believes if and when APD restructures its force, private security firms like IPS will no longer be needed in residential neighborhoods.

“I think this is a temporary thing,” Klein said. “I don’t think this is moving toward the future of police work.”